Karzai’s Washington Visit: The War Awaiting Kandahar

Clad in his usual attire of a colorful, striped robe, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared more like an emperor as he began his fourth day in Washington. Accompanying him on a somber visit to the Arlington National Cemetery were US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and top US (and NATO) commander in Afghanistan Stanley A. McChrystal — the very men responsible for the war and occupation of his own country.

The well-choreographed and clearly-rehearsed visit seemed set on giving the impression that the relationship between Karzai and these men was that of an independent, confident leader seeking the support of a benevolent superpower.

But what were Karzai’s real reasons for visiting Washington?

Typical media analyses have for months misrepresented the apparent chasm between Afghanistan and the US under Obama’s administration. Even if this administration was genuinely discontented with Karzai’s policies, at least until very recently, the resentment had little to do with the reasons offered by media ‘experts’. It was not because Karzai was failing to deliver on governance, end corruption and so on. Let’s face it, the US war in Afghanistan was never morally grounded, and it never could be either. Not unless the militant mindset that governs US foreign policy somehow acquires a complete overhaul.

For now, let’s face up to reality. Bad days are awaiting Afghanistan. True, it is hard to imagine how Afghanistan’s misfortunes could possibly get any worse. But they will, particularly for those living in Kandahar in the south. Seated next to Karazi during his Washington visit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that her country will “not destroy Kandahar in order to save Kandahar.”

The statement may sound assuring, but it is in fact ominous and very troubling. Clinton was referring to the Bush administration’s policy in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, she candidly admitted this by saying, “This is not Fallujah,” referring to the Iraqi city which was almost completely destroyed in 2004 by a massive US Marine assault intended to ‘save’ the city. “Lessons have been learned since Iraq,” stated Clinton.

But if lessons were truly learned, then why the fictitious language, the silly assertion that the real intention is to in fact ‘save’ Kandahar? And what other strategy does the US have in store for Afghanistan, aside from the irritating debate on whether to use unmanned drones or do the killing face to face?

Was Karzai in Washington to provide a cover for what is yet to come in the Taliban’s southern stronghold? It’s not unlikely. Considering past and repeated claims of a growing divide between Kabul and Washington, a bloody attack on Kandahar could in fact be seen as the US acting unilaterally in Afghanistan. Add to this scenario the constant and continued calls made by Karzai himself to engage Taliban. A US escalation without public consent from Karzai himself couldn’t possibly be seen as a part of a joint strategy.

At a presentation at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Karzai spoke of an extended US commitment to Afghanistan that would last “beyond the military activity right now … into the future, long after we have retired, and perhaps into our grandsons’ and great-grandsons’ — and great-granddaughters’ — generations.”

“This is something the Afghan people have been seeking for a long, long time,” he said.

Clinton too was concerned about the plight of the ‘people’. She promised to “help the people of Kandahar to recover the entire city to be able to put it to the use and the benefit of the people of Kandahar… We’re not fighting the Afghan people…We’re fighting a small minority of very dedicated, ruthless extremists who unfortunately are able to enlist young men… for a variety of reasons and send them out onto the battlefield.”

Although Clinton wanted us to believe that the Bush era is over, with a new dawn in US foreign policy upon us, she used almost the exact same language, phrased in almost the exact same context that the Bush administration used prior to its major military assaults aimed at ‘saving the people’ from some ‘ruthless extremists’, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And a major assault there will be, for the Taliban’s counter-surge is threatening the US’s counterinsurgency operations.

A quick scan of an article by Marie Colvin in Marjah, Afghanistan, where the Taliban is once more making its presence very clear, highlights the challenges facing the US military throughout the country. Entitled ‘Swift and bloody: the Taliban’s revenge,’ the May 9 article starts with the claim that “rebels have returned.” Throughout, the report was dotted with similar assertions. “Marjah was supposed to be safe… All that progress is threatened by the Taliban ‘surge’… There were always fears that they would re-emerge … The strength of the Taliban’s presence is gradually becoming clearer… The Taliban are growing bolder…”

The term ‘surge’ was once associated with General David Petraeus’s strategy predicated on the deployment of 30,000 new troops in Afghanistan. That it is now being attributed to the Taliban’s own strategy is ironic, to say the least. Once meant to be a ‘success story, now convincing the world that things are working out in Afghanistan might not be so easy after all. “Worries are growing in the Pentagon that if thousands of marines and Afghan security forces cannot entirely defeat the Taliban in Marjah, a town of only 50,000, securing the far larger prize of Kandahar may be an even greater struggle than has been foreseen,” wrote Colvin.

The challenge ahead, although bolstered with all the right (albeit predictable) language is likely to be bloody, just like the rest of this sad Afghanistan episode, which actually began much earlier than 2001.

The US and Karzai (as a supposed representative of the ‘Afghani people’) must come across as united in the face of the extremist minority. Karzai’s visit to the US was the political padding prior to the likely military storm. It was meant to assure the public that the chaos which will follow is in fact part of a counterinsurgency effort; well-planned, calculated, executed and, as always, passionately articulated.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). Read other articles by Ramzy, or visit Ramzy's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 20th, 2010 at 9:48am #

    The craziest proposition here is Karzai’s groveling claim that Afghans looked forward to US ‘committment’ (at the Orwellian US Institute of Peace). The idea that people would welcome the presence of foreign butchers who had destabilised their country for forty years, murdered, tortured and disappeared millions of their people and devastated the country, could only appeal to a people as ignorant, brainwashed and arrogant as Yanks. The situation is even more preposterous in Iraq, where the death-toll and destruction is even greater and includes the hellish years of the sanctions of mass destruction.That Iraqis would welcome people represented by the likes of the odious Madeleine Albright, the Zionist who opined that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children were a price that was ‘worth it’ is laughable and contemptible. The only Iraqis and Afghans who would welcome the presence of the Great Satan and his imps are, in my opinion, Quisling scum.

  2. Rehmat said on May 20th, 2010 at 10:36am #

    Karzai is not a fool. As a US Green-card holder, he knows very well why Washington placed him at Kabul’s throne in the first place – to fullfil US lobbyists to run a gas pipeline from Caspian Sea to Gwadar (Pakistan) through Afghanistan for Haifa refinery or Afghanistan-Pakistan-India – both bypassing Iran, and of course to reverse the shortage of heroin supply from Afghanistan, which was banned by Taliban,

    Since his re-election as result of last-year US-sponsored fraud election, he has been assured that Washington has failed to find a more corrupt leader than him. That’s why he acted like a “King” when he came to neet Barack Obama. Furthermore, he is using his friendly relations with Iran – as a stick to scare the hell out of Israel Lobby.

    Ahmadinejad ruffles US feathers in Kabul

  3. onecansay said on May 20th, 2010 at 3:20pm #

    ““help the people of Kandahar to recover the entire city to be able to put it to the use and the benefit of the people of Kandahar… We’re not fighting the Afghan people…We’re fighting a small minority of very dedicated, ruthless extremists who unfortunately are able to enlist young men… for a variety of reasons and send them out onto the battlefield.””.

    Ya, just like zionist america out of washington is trying to help her people enlisting young american men. The stupidity increases every hour, minute by minute. Seems there is no will to take down this cabal anywhere in the world. Flirting with disaster is what happened yesterday.

  4. bozh said on May 21st, 2010 at 7:10am #

    World plutos or asocialists fear most of all an enlightenment. In US, to prevent it, they took over all media, entertainment industry, advertising, cia, fbi, police, army, judiciary, congress, ‘sports’, forests, mining-oiling, transportation, space, schooling.
    Even much of the internet. But not all! Is it because very few p. read DV and other educational media?

    So, if we now have only ab 001% of people dissenting, and many of which are asocialistic also, it is no wonder dissenting media is still running!

    Even on DV, majority of posters appear to be antisocialistic; interested only in patching old pants; each wanting to patch it in time-place of own choosing.
    Most of them most of time just labeling or stifling free speech; hoping that by insults and ridicule to drive out socialists. tnx

  5. mary said on May 21st, 2010 at 8:32am #

    It has just been announced on BBC News 24 as ‘breaking news’ that 8,000 British troops are being placed under US command in Helmand province. Not even during WWII when we were facing a common enemy did our troops receive orders from a foreign country but this was obviously the purpose of the meeting in Washington this week when Hillary was giving Hague his orders. Likewise US troops are under British command in Kandahar.

    ‘But everything’s OK’, said the weatherman following this announcement. ‘It’s going to be a lovely weekend and you can get those barbeques out’. That’s right, get that smell of burning flesh in your nostrils. Animal flesh that is – not the human flesh covered in brown skin that we are burning alive in Afghanistan.


    UK troops in Afghanistan to come under US command

    There are currently 10,000 UK forces in Afghanistan

    About 8,000 British troops based in Helmand province in Afghanistan are to come under the operational command of the US, the Ministry of Defence says. The move is part of a restructuring of Nato forces, with command and control in southern Afghanistan split into two.
    UK forces currently take orders from Maj Gen Nick Carter, in charge of operations in the south. Maj Gen Carter will now oversee Kandahar, while Maj Gen Richard Mills from the US will take on Helmand.

    ‘ British and American troops have been working together in many theatres over many decades and don’t have a problem working together’
    David Cameron – Prime Minister

    The command of the 1,100-strong British battle group based in Sangin – an area which has seen a number of UK deaths recently – and in Kajaki will also come under US-led force from 1 June.

    Asked about the changes at a news conference in Berlin, Prime Minister David Cameron said the move “does make good sense in terms of maximising the impact of what both we and the Americans are doing in the southern part of the country, which is absolutely vital”.

    I despair of it all.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 21st, 2010 at 9:23am #

    mary, this just ratifies the reality that the UK has been reduced to the status of second-rate running-dog to the Empire. Top of the heap are the Chosen People, who, through their unparalleled money power, control that psychopathic state, the US, that terrorises the world. The UK, with its too keen by half ruling caste, themselves owned and controlled by the Zionists, is now at the level of Poland or Georgia, with its more or less florid ruling psychopaths leavening their mental and spiritual disease with a dollop of crass self-delusion. Pathetic, but nemesis is at hand, for hundreds of years of being in the vanguard of the West’s depredations and violence against the rest of the planet.